The collateral influences on the mental health of young children of parents with a history of incarceration



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The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) dataet was used to examine the collateral consequences of paternal incarceration on very young children’s wellbeing. The dissertation was organized into three articles. First, for article one, a conceptual framework was developed to contextualize the absence of parents due to incarceration among other forms of absences (military deployment and deportation) by acknowledging common themes across subpopulations. Second, for articles two and three, secondary analysis of cross-sectional data from FFCWS was used to conduct a series of hierarchical multiple regression analyses. Results for the multiple regression models showed that the inclusion of additional contextual risk factors reduces the statistical significance of the impact of paternal incarceration, and highlighted the strong influence of real situational complexities these children face, including housing instability, low birth weight, changes in parents’ marital status, and infrequent father involvement. Parents’ mental health did not moderate the association between paternal incarceration and children’s mental health. The results of this study offer policymakers and providers of early childhood education important insights about the vulnerabilities of children with incarcerated of incarcerated parents.